Late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien will have the honor of entertaining Washington’s top journalists and politicians at this spring’s White House Correspondents Association dinner.
He follows Jimmy Kimmel, another late night talk host, and Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers, who performed at the 2012 and 2011 dinners. Meyers had one of the more memorable performances in recent years, joking about Osama Bin Laden’s whereabouts just one day before Obama would announce U.S. Navy Seals had successfully found and killed the al-Qaida leader.
Watch Meyers and Obama skewer Donald Trump at the 2011 dinner.
Stephen Colbert had the most controversial performance in recent memory, when he skewered President Bush (and essentially no one else) in an unrelenting monologue performed in the right-wing character he plays on his TV show, the Colbert Report. Many in the Bush administration were so offended they walked out during the performance.
Watch Colbert’s Bush-centric 2006 performance.
O’Brien’s biggest challenge this year may be outshining the president, whose standout zingers have dominated coverage in the last few years. Obama even went so far as to skewer the informal nickname for the dinner at last year’s event. “Of course the White House Correspondent’s Dinner is known as the prom of Washington DC, a term coined by political reporters who clearly never had the chance to go to an actual prom.”
The key to a successful gig these days calls for ribbing politicians on both sides of the aisle, and while O’Brien doesn’t focus on politics on his late night show, he’s willing to rag on Democrats and Republicans. Last week he ribbed the GOP in his monologue, saying “The Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address was given by Senator Marco Rubio. It’s just one more example of rich white guys getting a Hispanic to do a job they don’t want to do.”
In a monologue just before the State of the Union he hit the president for being sworn in on both the Lincoln and King bibles. ”President Obama’s inauguration is coming up. During next week’s inauguration, he will be sworn in with not one, but two Bibles. Relax, Mr. President. We get it. You’re not a Muslim. You’re overcompensating.”
And of course, a good joke that hits Washington culture overall never hurts. Conan’s most recent political tweet?
In honor of President’s Day, I won’t be getting along with Congress.
— Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) February 18, 2013
Also on O’Brien’s side? Experience. He hosted the event once before nearly two decades ago. In his 1995 appearance he teased Democrats for switching parties and repeatedly referenced the OJ Simpson case. He even cracked a joke about press coverage of Hillary Clinton. “I really do think the press should be applauded from shifting the focus from Mrs. Clinton’s hairstyle to Marsha Clark’s.”
O’Brien even took a shot at the network that hosts the event (as hosts typically do): “For those of you watching tonight’s event live on CSPAN, for God’s sake it’s Saturday night. Go outside!” … adding in his typical self-deprecating fashion “Higher ratings than mine.”
Watch Conan’s appearance from 1995.
Then-comedian and now-Senator Al Franken had the honor of hosting the years before and after Conan’s last shot at the podium. Conan will get his second shot on April 27.